1990 Ford Bronco Eddie Bauer Review - 3 Years of Ownership

Bronco on a lightly snowy day
Bronco on a lightly snowy day

The Bronco I’m reviewing in this article is my personal, daily driven vehicle. I’ve owned it for three years, and have driven approximately 27,000 miles. So this is a very long term reveiw. Enjoy, and thanks for readin’.

      The Ford Bronco. It's nameplate is best known for O.J. Simpsons famous getaway vehicle going down the 405 (I-405) in California. And people who remember the news coverage like to poke at you for owning one. Despite this, I've really enjoyed the my personal Bronco. In this review I'll go over stats, reliability, overview of repairs, pros and cons, and my overall thoughts (not necessarily in that order). So strap in, and keep your eyes peeled for cops. 
    
          This Bronco is the 4th generation, 1987-1991, full size Bronco. Many changes were made during this generation, so many things aren't true for previous years. I'll note some of the previous years parts, but not all. 
    
          Now before I get to the subjective part of this test, I'll go over this Bronco by the numbers and installed equpment. 
    

Powertrain:

  • Engine: 351 (5.8l) Windsor cast iron EFI V8 small block producing (from the factory) 210 HP @ 2800 RPM and 315 lbft of torque @ 2800 RPM.
  • Transmission: E4OD (Electronic 4 (speed) Over-Drive) automatic, only transmission available for the Bronco with the 351W from ‘89 and up (‘87-‘88 had the C6 3 speed auto) and Over-Drive Cancel switch (disables overdrive for towing)
  • Transfer-Case (T-Case): A married Borg Warner 1356 two speed, Lever operated (4x4 Lo 2.71:1 Ratio)
  • Axles:
    • Front: Dana 44 Twin Traction Beam (TTB) with coil spring, dual shock absorbers, and manual locking hubs, open diff with a 3.55:1 ratio.
    • Rear: Ford 8.8 inch rear axle with leaf springs, and a Trac-Lok LSD and a 3.55:1 ratio.
  • Rims/Tires: 15in x 8in Steel Wagon Wheels and Beauty Rings / 31x10.5R15 Goodyear Wrangler Duratracs
  • Curb weight of 4800 lbs
  • 0-60: Eventually, I’ve never timed it.
  • Wheel Base: 105 inches
  • Approach angle: 37.5 Degrees
  • Brakeover angle: 24.9 Degrees
  • Departure angle: 23.4 Degrees
  • Ground Clarence:
    • Front Axle: 8.1 inches
    • At Brakeover: 9.6 inches
    • Rear Axle: 7.8 inches
  • Turning Radius: 35.4 ft

Factory Installed Options:

  • Power Windows, Rear Tailgate window is Power as standard on all trims.
  • Removable Hard top (standard on all Broncos)
  • Power Locks
  • Power steering
  • Power brakes (vacuum assist) and Rear only Anti-Lock Brakes (RWAL)
  • Rear window defrost
  • Eddie Bauer Trim package with unique paint scheme and unique badges on seats, dash, and exterior.
  • SureStep Chrome Bumpers with plastic Rub Strips
  • Swing out Spare Tire Carrier with matching full-size spare
  • Locking Glove box and Center console
  • AC (which has never worked, so I can’t review how it functions. But I can review what it feels like to lack it.)
  • Premium Sound System (at least it was in 1990)
  • High Output Alternator
  • Towing Package
  • Skid plates on the fuel tank and transmission/T-Case (T-Case plate was standard after ‘88)
  • 32 Gallon fuel tank (standard on all Broncos)
  • Full gauge cluster: Tachometer, Oil Pressure, Voltmeter, Coolant Temp.

Aftermarket parts:

  • Chrome Brush Guard (which took two years to find, this is a neglected body style in the way of aftermarket add-ons)
  • AM/FM/CD/Aux Pioneer radio (installed by the previous owner)
  • Trailer Brake Controller (again, by the previous owner)
  • Non factory headlight assemblies (the old ones where faded so bad that light barely reached the ground with the high beams on)

That’s pretty much it, she’s mostly stock

Taken on a very hot and humid NY day with the windows open. I hope I can fix the damn AC...
Taken on a very hot and humid NY day with the windows open. I hope I can fix the damn AC...

Now to the subjective part of this review. Take into account that she’s a 27 year old truck. Some things don’t work like they used to. And things were made differently in 1990.

     That being said, the Bronco is actually a pretty comfortable truck. I say truck, even though it's classified as an Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV) or an SUV (depending on who you ask), because it shares most of it's mechanical parts and a majority of it's sheet metal with it's F-Series brethren, especially the F-150. 
          The captains chairs are pretty supportive, although the drivers seat is worn significantly.  Especially on the left lumbar support, from the only graceful way to get out of the truck, sliding off the seat. The seat has only two adjustments. Forward/back and recline. Both adjustments are manual (which I prefer). The front seats also slide and tilt forward, standard from '89 and up, to allow people to enter and exit the truck with greater ease. The front seat belts are non-height adjustable, so for some they aren't comfy. As for me, they're just right. The arm rests are nice, but I had to remove the driver's one as it had broken off the mount. There's plenty of headroom and space in the front and there's little to complain about in that respect.
          Overall space is quite abundant, and nothing is in the way. The HVAC (heating, ventilation and AC) controls and the radio are centered more towards the driver. The cloth upholstery is still in fair shape and is still pretty soft to the touch. There's an over abundance of hard plastics and some faux wood trim on the dash, door panels, center console, and side paneling in the back. Despite that, it has weathered the ages quite well, and there's only two pieces of cracked plastic, one on the dash and one on the A pillar. The cloth headliner is still attached, only the cloth itself is sagging ever so slightly. There's also a 3-4 inch long tear in it on the passengers side that goes all the way to the metal roof. 
          The steering wheel is a pleather (plastic-leather mix, don't quite know how to explain it) material  and is nicely sized. Sadly, I don't have the tilt steering column, so it's fixed at one setting. A tilt steering column was an option for this truck. The gauge cluster is comprehensive and easy to understand with just a glance. Even maintenance on the gauges themselves is easy (I know, as I had to change the speedometer head). The gauges are separated, so if one fails, you don't have to replace the whole cluster, just the failed gauge.
         The 4x4 lever is located just to your right on the transmission tunnel. It's easy to reach and shifts with smooth and decisive throws. There's very little that gets in the way of it, and it is very easy to operate, even for a total noob. The t-case lever also has a safety mechanism which prevents it from being shifted into neutral or Lo range accidentally. It can only be disabled when you shift the the transmission into neutral. Although with age, I've been able to shift the t-case into neutral and 4x4 Lo whilst in park. But that's only a minor problem. 
          The rear bench is also quite nice. It can comfortably seat three, and the lap belts aren't uncomfortable. The rear seat folds forward or can be removed entirely to free up space in the rear cargo bay. Headroom in the back is just as abundant as in the front, although the rear cap doesn't have a headliner. The rear cap is sheet metal, not fiberglass like Chevy's K5 Blazer/Jimmy.
          The rear tailgate is easy to open. First you must lower the rear window, via either the lock cylinder with door lock key in the tailgate itself, or the dash mounted switch. Once lowered, you need to unlatch the tire swing, then reach into the interior side of the tailgate and pull the handle. The handle was mounted in the inside on all Broncos because of the tire swing option. Also, it prevented someone from opening the tailgate with the window up, which could shatter the glass.
          Speaking of glass, I love the vent windows that this truck has. On a hot and humid day here in the Finger Lakes region of NY, having the ability to direct wind to your face and upper torso is awesome... as long as you're in motion. Plus opening the rear window not only increases air flow, it also reduces that terrible wind noise that you hear when you open the window. So you can hear the sweet sound the engine is making, as it also allows more engine noise in via the exhaust. 
          The engine bay is open and allows for easy maintenance, on almost every part that you need. Transmission, oil, power steering, and coolant dipsticks/reservoirs are all within reach and are easy to locate. The distributor is near the front of the truck, allowing for easy timing adjustment and ease of maintenance.
    
Ford - 1990 Ford Bronco Eddie Bauer Review - 3 Years of Ownership - Readers' Reviews

Now to tell you how it drives. You were probably waiting for this the most. At least, that’s what I’m assuming.

      The Bronco drives pretty damn good for being nearly 30 years old. the suspension is both firm because of the springs and shock combo, and also bouncy because of the short wheelbase. There's a fair amount of wind noise  from the lack of sound deadening material and old weatherstripping. That doesn't bother me too much, but for some it does. Brake pedal feel is great, but occasionally the vacuum assist isn't fully present. Steering is slightly numb, in a truck way, but still has some road feel. There's also some play in the steering, but that's probably because of the worn ball joints and tired power steering pump. 
          On the road the Bronco is pretty good. It steers nicely, thanks to the short wheelbase, and is pretty comfortable in town and highway speeds. This truck is by no means a performance car. To borrow a quote David Freiburger "This car doesn't handle like a refrigerator full of bowling balls, it's the next level worse than that. This car handles like a nun carrying a mattress." That's pretty much how this truck handles. It's very top heavy, and the center of gravity is fairly high. You can most definitely feel the weight shifting in turns, especially on thruway on ramps. This truck was designed to be used off road at slower speeds rather than on the road. 
          The brakes work very good, and there are very few complaints here. I've made a couple of emergency stops, mostly my neighbors dog getting out or deer, and there was is good feel and little fade. Although I haven't gone through many twisty switchback roads nor have I towed with the truck. As for throttle response, it's varying. She's not a fast truck. But at the same time, she's no slouch. A wide open throttle (WOT) pass from zero or  moderately low speeds, she's a little sluggish and likes to hold second gear. from moderately high or highway speeds, she is not as good. She's more bark than bite. The truck occasionally downshifts when at WOT, but most of the time hugs the overdrive gear. Despite this, the truck moves when you want it to. And it does it with very few complaints. 
          The shifts though the gears are decently crisp and are firmly felt in a good way. There are some vibrations, squeaks and rattles while driving. Mostly at higher speeds, but it's to be expected for an older vehicle. Especially one like mine that is 27 years old and has almost 145,000 miles on the clock. The engine carries great oil pressure, and the heater in the past three winters has been superb. But in the summer, with the humidity, and the dark pain job, and a lack of wind, the truck can be killer hot. I don't stay in it long when it's stationary.
    
A rainy picture, because every car guy has one somewhere. Don't lie to me...
A rainy picture, because every car guy has one somewhere. Don't lie to me...

Next is the repairs preformed across the 3 years I’ve had the truck. This part is mostly going to be listed, as there isn’t a whole lot I’ve done beyond basic maintenance like oil changes and the like.

Parts replaced (excluding oil filters and oil/fliuds):

  • Fuel Filter
  • Spark plugs (8)
  • Spark plug wires
  • Distributor cap and rotor
  • Ignition Coil
  • Door lock cylinders
  • Headlight assemblies and headlight bulbs
  • Warn Manual Hubs
  • Tires (4)
  • Speedometer head
  • Dash cluster bulbs
  • Turn signal fuse/relay
  • a plethora of fuses (most were the wrong ones when I got the truck)
  • Air filter
  • TFI Module (Thick Film Ignition) AKA Ignition Control module
  • Rear brake pads
  • Battery
  • Both battery cables
  • starter solenoid (twice, someone fried a brand new one when the ignition coil failed and they kept trying to start it)

Things I have to do in the future (as of writing this):

  • Change the shocks (6) (I have them, just have to find a good day to do them)
  • Upper and lower ball joints
  • Diff fluids
  • Exhaust, complete (mostly a want, not a need)
  • An alignment
  • Get a new grille (explanation later)
  • Complete AC system
  • Off road lights (because why not!?)
  • More or less keep ‘er running.

    This truck has been a very reliable vehicle. It has only not started on three occasions, when the battery cables finally gave out and, the ignition coil, and the starter solenoid.

Replacing the Speedometer. This is what the dash looks like behind the gauges.
Replacing the Speedometer. This is what the dash looks like behind the gauges.
The mess I made while replacing the speedometer.
The mess I made while replacing the speedometer.

Pros of this truck:

  • It’s depreciated as far as it will go, and with Ford bringing the nameplate back, average sale prices of these trucks has increased
  • V8 power and sound
  • The tight turning radius
  • The unique look of it, especially when the cap is off
  • Reliability
  • The ease of maintenance and repair (a Haynes manual and forums help a ton)
  • The TTB front suspension
  • OBD 1 (NYS inspections are a breeze, and it’s not very hard to learn)
215 KB
This is Ford's Twin Traction Beam (TTB) suspension. It's a halved solid axle so that each side can move independently, yet retain the abilities of a solid axle.

Cons:

  • The TTB front suspension (That’s no mistake. TTB suspension can be hard to align at times and sometimes wears tires in a funny way. It’s temperamental, but worth it in my opinion)
  • The age, parts break easier and some are hard to find
  • Very little aftermarket support (in the way of lights, bumpers, brush guards, some mechanical parts, rims and so on)
  • Rust AKA natural lock-tight (This is a problem for all cars, but some people don’t stop the rust when it starts. Especially here in NY where salt is applied to the roads)
  • The previous owners. Many take these poor trucks to the mud bogs and beat the living crap out of them. Jumps, high speed impacts with water and mud, and just plain abuse are common. The grainy and dirty water gets into places it shouldn’t and very, very bad stuff happens.
  • Gas mileage. I usually get 9 city/12 highway
  • OBD 1 (takes a lot to trigger a check engine light, and it’s not as intuitive nor as universal as OBD 2)
  • No airbags (we die like men…)

        Now for the explanation of the grille. It's actually kinda funny. I was at a doctors appointment one day. Somewhere between me leaving the truck and getting back to it, some twerp had stolen the grille. It was an aftermarket billet grille. About 20 cents worth of scrap metal. Although it didn't really bother me, as the grille made it near impossible to open the engine hood. And also the fact I had left the truck unlocked and nothing else was stolen. That happened about a month after I got the truck. I still haven't replaced it despite that. But now the grille guard makes it look like something's there.
        
What the Bronco looked like before the grille guard.
What the Bronco looked like before the grille guard.

Overall, I don’t regret purchasing the Bronco. It has definitely been a trusty steed, despite people telling me it’s an old POS and should be sent to the scrap yard. Or if they don’t call it crappy, they make some sly O.J. joke. But others (my dad included) remember the good times they had around, in, or with a Bronco. It’s definitely a very memorable vehicle, no matter what that memory may entail.

       Did you like my take on the Ford Bronco? Let me know below. Also, if you have questions, comments, and/or constructive criticism, feel free to comment below. This is my first review, so let me know if you liked it or not. And again, thanks for readin'!